Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Moroccan Berber Restaurant in the Baja Wine Country

Culture in the Baja Wine Country: How Mustafa’s Restaurant Came to the Valle de Guadalupe

by Burleigh Sullivan

So we went to Mustafa’s Restaurant in the Baja Wine Country to do a review on their breakfast during the holiday season. What we got was a recent history of the wine country and how a Moroccan Berber ended up becoming a key cultural player in the new folklore of this up and coming world class wine producing area - an amazing look back at a piece of Baja Wine Country history.

Mustafa Ali, the owner of Mustafa’s Restaurant, is an effervescent gentleman with a big smile and a kind hospitality that makes our Baja Wine Country a unique and interesting place to be in 2008.

In Tangiers Morocco 1944, during a time that can be best described as a real life Casablanca movie where the Germans, Americans, French, and English were jockeying for position to dominate the world, Mustafa Ali was born.

In 1955, Mustafa moved to the U.S.A. landing in New York City. Quickly thereafter he moved west to the great State of California. Ambitious, the new American citizen studied at Palomar College in San Marcos California and worked managing in the poultry industry for many years.

Mustafa, an industrious ambitios man, meet his wife Nelli, originally from Tecate, while she was employed at the poultry concern. They started their family having two children Omar and Shareem.

After years of work in California and seeking a new challenge, in 1983, Mustafa purchased 6 hectares (about 12 acres) in the Guadalupe Valley for $ 55,000. “This place really reminded me of Morocco and that gave me a warm home feeling” says a proud Mustafa. “It was time for a change”.

Upon his purchase and after a night of a spirits and celebration, Mustafa proclaimed to his wife that they were moving to Mexico. So they packed up their bags and moved to the Valley de Guadalupe.

The baja wine country property they purchased came with a small house and vineyards as far as the eye could see. They renovated and made it their new home. “It was a beautiful time for us” says Mustafa.

Originally, the idea was to sell the grapes to local wineries and earn a living. “The local wineries were paying just 1000 pesos per ton and because of the peso fluctuations during that time, they were paying anywhere from 6 to 8 months out. It was impossible to do business like that” said Mustafa. “So I pulled up most of the vines and replaced them with Carnation flowers".

For about 3 years, Mustafa sold his carnations to an array of flower buyers in the U.S.A. earning a super good living. However, the Columbians began exporting their Carnations into the USA at 1 penny per flower delivered. This killed the business off completely. Mustafa continued to sell the flowers to local markets but the writing was on the wall, the Carnation business was over.

With the demise of the Carnation business, Mustafa needed a new business. So on November 6 1986, Mustafa’s Restaurant was born.

Mustafa’s Country Moroccan Mexican Restaurant was an immediate hit with the locals and tourists alike. “We were really the only full-service restaurant in the valley” says Mustafa. “At 8am, we used to have a line outside our door everyday for years”.

Overtime, more restaurants came in and filled the demand. Mustafa’s Restaurant is now the grand daddy of the local establishments – famous with both locals and tourists alike – and we are the beneficiaries of the Moroccan Berber who came to the Baja Wine Country with a dream and that ambitious smile that says "Welcome Home".

Mustafa's Restaurant has indoor dining specializing in Mexican style breakfasts and lunches with an Arabic flavor. Services large groups with prior reservations.
Km. 93 Highway #3 Tecate-Ensenada in San Antonio de las Minas, on the main highway.
(646) 155-3185

No comments: